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d’archéologie orientale du Caire


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Inherkhâouy (TT 359)

Digitally distinguishing hieroglyphic hands in the tomb of Inherkhâouy (TT 359)

Université de Leyde
NINO, Leyde
Kings Digital Lab at Kings College London


• Elizabeth Bettles (Leiden University)
• Ben Haring (Leiden University)

• Elizabeth Bettles, documentation and digital epigrapher (NINO université de Leyde)
• Ben Haring, palaeography advisor (Leiden University)

Painted hieroglyphs offer numerous and multi-faceted insights into the individual who painted them: his writing practices; how he created particular sign shapes and spelled particular words. They can also reflect his beliefs concerning the funerary context in which he was working, the mdw ntr (god’s words) he was writing as well as reveal aspects of his personality. As is recognized today, no two people exhibit handwriting characteristics that are totally identical. Due to the limitations of hard-copy publication, gathering together enough data with which to characterize in detail a hieroglyphic ‘hand’, and which will allow robust conclusions to be drawn, has been a daunting task. Attempting to analyse comprehensively in what ways, and to what extent, the hieroglyphic ‘hands’ of two or more ss kd (scribe/painters) may differ, or indeed be similar, has been a task too challenging to attempt. Such an investigation requires the facilities of multi-faceted data collection; rapid search and easy comparative analysis of those data; as well as the publication of large numbers of images. The focus of this project is to use recent developments in digital technology to undertake such an investigation.
The aim is to gather written and visual data concerning features of morphology, orthography and ductus of hieroglyphs which were painted in the 20th Dynasty tomb of Anhurkhawy (TT 359) at Deir el-Medina. This tomb offers an exceptional opportunity for characterizing and distinguishing hieroglyphic ‘hands’ in this multi-faceted manner due to the appearance of ‘signatures’ of two ss kd, among the painted inscriptions. These ‘signatures’ suggest that evidence for at least two ‘hands’ exists among the thousands of well-preserved painted hieroglyphs in the two underground chambers of this tomb. As these two men, Nebnefer (ix) and Harmin, were in all likelihood brothers, the sons of ss kd Hori, a further aspect of interest is that they were probably taught how to write hieroglyphic signs by one man, their father. Identifying the similarities of their hieroglyphic ‘hands’ may therefore be as fruitful as highlighting their differences.
A digital dataset is being gathered together to include descriptive annotations and close-up photos about individual painted signs and their appearance in particular words, names and common phrases. In addition, epigraphic facsimiles of ductus showing, when visually discernible, individual brush-strokes, their shape, size, number and locations where they overlap, are being digitally created. All data are being entered onto Archetype, an interactive, digital framework developed recently at Kings College London (KCL) as an aid to scholars studying the palaeography of medieval and ancient scripts. In collaboration with the IT specialists at Kings Digital Lab (KDL) this flexible framework is being adapted to cater for the unique characteristics of the hieroglyphic script. This digital structure will enable the rapid search and manipulation of quantities of data concerning the painted hieroglyphs in this tomb. It will allow simultaneous comparative analysis of multiple images in its Lightbox feature, and the facility to disseminate research conclusions, supported by evidence from the database, to the wider community. At the end of the project this interactive database, with its substantial dataset about painted hieroglyphs, will be put online.